How is first degree murder differentiated from other types of homicides?
When it comes to a murder charge, mental intent is one of the hallmark elements for the prosecution to prove. Of course, there are varying levels of mental intent when it comes to committing a crime, ranging from accidental to deliberate – the latter of which is required in a first degree murder conviction.
Often, a prosecutor will charge a suspect with several degrees of homicide in order to ensure the jury is able to reach a decision on at least one of the indictments. If the mental intent element is shaky, or may be difficult to prove at trial, the state may include a lesser offense. In New Jersey, the following charges are available in any scenario involving the death of another person:
- First degree murder: purposely or knowingly causing the death of another person, or causing serious bodily injury of another person that results in death.
- Manslaughter as a result of reasonable provocation: homicide that occurs in the “heat of passion” without any cooling off period.
- Aggravated manslaughter: action involving an extreme indifference to the value of human life
- Reckless manslaughter: action involving a “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would result [or] conduct grossly below the standard that a reasonable person would have followed under similar circumstances.”
In one recent case, a New Jersey man was killed after answering an advertisement on Craig’s List for an all-terrain vehicle. According to evidence presented at trial, the defendant lured the victim to his home for the purpose of committing an armed robbery, which he was alleged to have committed against other Craig’s List users. When the deal quickly went awry, the victim lost his life.
In his defense, the defendant asserted that the prosecution had arrested the wrong perpetrator, and a different individual was actually responsible for the crime. Nonetheless, the judge sentenced the defendant to the maximum possible sentence: life in prison.
If you are facing a homicide, assault, or similar indictment for a violent crime, please contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler serving clients all around southern New Jersey. We can be reached at 609.267.1101.